HDC raises safety concerns over library railing

At HDC meeting
Wed, 10/10/2018 - 7:45pm

The Historic District Commission has asked the Island Free Library to revise its plans for a new railing on the side of the library building due to safety and design concerns.

The library’s Board of Trustees unanimously approved the replacement of the old wooden railing at its side entrance with a galvanized steel railing at its April 10 meeting.

The railing will consist of sections, five feet in length, adorned intermittently with 30-inch diameter blue-colored medallions featuring the artwork of the late James Stevenson, such as an octopus, duck or crab. The top of the quarter-inch flat stock railing will be 42 inches from the ground, and with a handrail 36 inches above the ground.

During the Oct. 4 meeting, HDC member Mark Vaillancourt said the galvanized steel railing could rust, and bend, making it unsafe for public use. “It doesn’t look like it will be strong enough,” he said of the quarter-inch thick railing that is proposed.

“Galvanized steel will rust,” said Vaillancourt. “Stainless steel would be better.” He also said that a “two-inch thick railing” would be stronger, and not sag like a quarter-inch railing. “I’m trying not to shoot it down. I want it to work.”

Library Director Kristin Baumann explained that a representative from The Steel Yard, the Providence-based company doing the work, visited the library several times and noted that galvanized steel would be suitable for the project. 

“I think it’s a great idea,” said commission member Arlene Tunney. “We just need to look at it closer” before we can grant final approval.

Baumann said that too many delays could potentially “stop the project” from moving forward.

“I just want it to last,” said Vaillancourt, who noted that, “There’s nothing like this in the Historic District.”

Vice Chair Martha Ball said, “There’s nothing like the library, either.”

HDC Chair Bill Penn said the commission has raised some legitimate “safety concerns that need to be addressed.”

“Safety is not in our jurisdiction,” said Ball.

“Well I think we could give a conceptual approval, subject to getting some answers to the questions that we raised” regarding safety and durability or maintenance, said Penn. “We have to be concerned about the safety of the railing, and the safety of our children.”

Ball then made the motion for preliminary approval, subject to details regarding safety and maintenance; including the design of the medallions, the strength of the material and rate at which it could rust. The motion was seconded by Dennis Riordan. While making the motion, Ball said, “The library is a contemporary building located in the Historic District that is its own little architectural island.”

The Library Trustees will return on Oct. 22 to assure the commission that the railing will meet specifications. The $12,870 railing will be funded through Board of Trustee monies, a grant, and funds contributed from the Friends of the Library. It is being designed and constructed by The Steel Yard, a non-profit organization that manufactures custom, functional public art projects. 

Darius barn rebuild

The owners of The Darius Inn were granted unanimous final approval by the commission to demolish an existing barn, and construct a two-story barn in its place at the rear of their property on Dodge Street. The commission had asked the applicant to return with detailed drawings, which seemed to satisfy the commission members, who wasted little time in granting final approval. Penn made the motion that was seconded by Vaillancourt.

Commission members Claire McQueeny and Mike Ballard were absent from the meeting. The next HDC meeting is Monday, Oct. 22 at 7 p.m.